The story of Theranos and its CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, is something almost too unbelievable. From Silicon Valley Unicorn, to the slow decline and eventual criminal charges happened in the past few years, and for many it feels all too recent. So the events that took place in the new Hulu series, The Dropout, felt all too familiar. Even though I knew most of the basic facts before sitting down to watch it, much of what took place in the series still felt like a major black eye for the world of startups, but also the concept of chasing wealth without worrying about the consequences.
The Dropout is the story of Elizabeth Holmes, from her early days at school, all the way to where we are now, with the company facing countless issues. Starring Amanda Seyfried as the titular dropout, and head of Theranos, the series takes its time setting the stage for the current timeline we all know. This is Seyfried’s series, with it following closely as she faces challenges, finds allies, and eventually goes from someone who wants to do good, to just wanting to be a CEO of something exciting.
Theranos is a company that has been in the news for a while now, and it is filled with stories well worth telling. From a startup that promised to revolutionize healthcare, to the eventual criminal charges and collapse as the truth slithered out, it is a story of betrayal, lies, greed and manipulation. No one looks good in this series, with everyone showing how much they would sell their soul to get what they want. The idea that a single drop of blood could tell so much about a person quickly goes from a dream, to a nightmare, and it is a ride well worth taking.
The series is very concerned with the world of VC’s, startup culture, and the pursuit of wealth over human lives. The people who hold the money are shown to turn a blind eye to the illicit things Elizabeth Holmes is doing, and push her to follow in the footsteps of Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and countless other tech billionaires that have made a name for themselves with technology.
“The Dropout is ultimately a story about the Theranos founder, and I feel it does this masterfully well.”
While Seyfried is the star of The Dropout, the supporting cast gives a taste of the people who stood behind Holmes, and how they either pushed her, or simply did not stop her when she was going down the wrong path. With appearances by Michael Ironside, Sam Waterston, William H. Macy, Stephen Fry and Kurtwood Smith, it is hard to not see a scene without someone you recognize, and bringing their all to the role.
Even with all the talent on screen, it is Naveen Andrews’ take on Sunny Balwani that steals the show for me. While he comes off as nurturing and an almost father figure to Holmes early on, quickly turns insidious, with a sense of grooming the young CEO (being 16 years her senior), along with many scenes of his controlling temper, manipulative actions, and other ways he will not let the female billionaire out of his clutches.
While I find the series captures the awkward nature of the Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes took to her everyday life, and how she was constantly facing struggles, it did take some blame away from her, and her actions, and try and paint a wide brush of how she found herself in this position. While it is still recent history, and even now things are unfolding, The Dropout seemed like it was a bit too lenient on Holmes, even as her tests caused harm to people.
Having said that, the biting take on Silicon Valley I feel is needed. This is a world that has been insulated from the problems they cause, and as more of the problems these new waves of startups have caused, it is good to see something bite back, and show how there is a human cost to plunging blindly into the future.
I also loved the obsession and reverace of the tech world from the characters in the movie. It is easy to forget how much people admired these self-made billionaires, and how even though their products are used today worldwide, they are just people, and they do make mistakes. I loved some of the scenes where it gave a taste of how even experienced investors were swept away in the wave of possibilities, and the potential for endless wealth.
The Dropout is ultimately a story about the Theranos founder, and I feel it does this masterfully well. Seyfried captures the look and awkward nature of Holmes, so much, so it can be hard to watch in some scenes. From sections she breaks down, to how she will turn on a friend and try and justify it, it is a performance that is as captivating as it is uncomfortable.
From the criminal charges, to the ways the healthcare system was almost caused serious harm, The Dropout tackles all the details of Theranos in detail, and it is well worth your time. It is a series that will make you question what is okay in the current tech world, and that is a good thing. If you want to dive into recent history and marvel at how much money was burned over lies, few series capture that feeling as well as The Dropout.